It had been raining in the afternoons in Phnom Penh and rained the afternoon travelling to Kratie so the thought was that an early start would get the travel out of the way by the time the rains came. Unfortunately breakfast took longer than intended as a result of slow service, getting cash etc it was well into the morning before the leaving of Kratie happened. I was not far out of it either when the rains started. Lightly at first, then the heavens opened and, despite taking shelter in a petrol station, I was soaked. I carried on and got to the morning’s destination.
The first thing I saw was the pictures of the dolphins on the sign in the big picture then the gateway in the smaller picture at the bottom. So I stopped and paid for my boat and a drizzle started almost immediately. Then it stopped then we headed into the rain you could see in the picture (top right) and I was wet through again. I even put on the life-jacket to have something for the rain to hit upon.
After about twenty minutes the rain, it stopped (Bottom top right) and then the boat stopped and things went very quiet. The driver indicated something but I could see nothing, then a fin, then the Mekong Dolphins in all their glory.
Everything I had hoped for, to see these rare, threatened, majestic creatures. On the way back we passed islands which were inhabited and being cultivated. People whose existence is said to be threatened, just like the dolphins, by proposals for dams on the river.
Back on the road and it was pretty much as it had been the day before. On the left-hand side properties heading down to the river and on the right ones in the forest or heading out into paddies and cultivated fields. A paved road so danger was less. It was never possible to get up much speed as all the time you were keeping your eyes peeled for animals or children running into the road, slowing down when there was a dog or a chicken, or a child who insisted in remaining in the road. The biggest offenders in staying in the road and staring at you were cows.
As you can see from the map above after a while I moved away from the riverside and traveled through a more rural route which had fewer homesteads alongside the road but more cows in the road. As also seen from the map, at Sangkum I joined National Highway 7 and the quality of the road improved significantly. Most houses were further back and when you went through built up areas people and animals were more aware of the traffic. If they weren’t the lorries screaming through would soon have made sure everyone else didn’t forget. The lorries added to the fun when a hilly stretch came and then they were to be overtaken, then they would want to pass when heading downhill, and repeat. Then the rain came back.
I dived into the first place I found by the side of the road. Where the above film was taken from. The people running the shop must have been used to giving shelter from the storm to people, I bought some things from them then was offered some food. It was now into the afternoon and I had had nothing since breakfast so the noodles with salad and an omelet was most welcome. You can see how wet I was.
The redcoats are coming! Once the rain stopped most of the journey was uneventful, apart from trying to start in neutral after asking the way in O’Pong Muon and being laughed at by the local people. Closing in on Stung Treng it started to rain again so I opened the throttle and tried to get there as quickly as possible, finishing up in a pharmacists on the outskirts of town. My thumb on my left, inside just below the knuckle, had got blisters each day from the grip for the handlebars and using the clutch. I had bought the see-through plasters but they had fallen off in the rain and made things worse so I was looking for industrial strength elastoplast type (other plaster types are available) plasters which they had and I was able to put on. Whilst there I rang the guesthouse for directions and, after conversations with a few people, they said someone would come to collect me. Typical of the friendliness I found whilst travelling, the pharmacist brought out a chair for me to sit on whilst waiting and sheltering from the rain.
When the person from the guesthouse arrived the rain had diminished and I followed them to it only to find, coincidence or irony of the day, that there was no water. So, I got moved to their other one which was a result as it was in the centre of town and I could walk to restaurants etc from it. After a shower and change of clothes I walked down to Ponika’s Place, recommended in the guide, for a very nice meal. I was willlingly sold some carry-outs as the owner and partner wanted to get to a birthday party and went back to my room for a read, drink and then sleep.